| BERLIN, April 1
BERLIN, April 1 Germany's regional states
succeeded in watering down the federal government's plans for
cuts in future wind energy projects in conjunction with a
landmark renewable energy law reform, Economy Minister Sigmar
Gabriel and state leaders said on Tuesday.
Reflecting the significance of the talks, Chancellor Angela
Merkel took part in the four-hour meeting in the chancellery
late on Tuesday and said the consensus agreement between the
state and federal governments formed a good basis for reform.
"We've reached a high degree of unity," said Merkel, who has
said getting right the country's "Energiewende", or transition
to renewable energy, will be one of the most important
challenges of her right-left grand coalition government.
"We've succeeded in taking a giant step forward in making
the 'Energiewende' a success," she added.
The government wants the energy reform measures to pass
through the lower house of parliament within weeks and even
though approval from the upper house, or states chamber, is not
needed, its backing will mean smoother sailing for a reform that
they hope will become law by August.
"This is a good day for wind energy in Germany," said
Torsten Albig, the state premier of Schleswig-Holstein, who had
fought hard to blunt reductions in offshore wind energy
expansion in the years ahead.
Under the agreement, the federal government will allow more
flexibility for new offshore wind energy plants by permitting up
to 1.2 gigawatts more capacity by 2020 on top of the 6.5
gigawatts already applied for.
Under Gabriel's previous plan, only 6.5 GW of offshore wind
energy could be added by 2020 and if one or more of the approved
projects were not built, the upper limit would be reduced
accordingly. Now the upper limit will be more flexible so that
at least 6.5 GW can be added.
Gabriel also backed down on another key demand by the
states. The annual upper limit for onshore expansion is 2.5 GW.
The states wanted him to be more flexible and allow new capacity
beyond 2.5 GW to be added if existing wind power plants are torn
Gabriel is trying to reform the way Germany supports its
growing green industries that derive power from sources such as
wind and solar, as costs have spiralled higher, burdening
private consumers in particular.
Any solution needs to suit the European Commission and
German industry, which criticised plans to make them pay the
surcharge and share the burden of the country's move to more
renewable energy. Germany gets a quarter of its electricity from
renewable sources and wants to raise that further by 2020.
The reform, closely watched by power markets, will go before
the cabinet on April 8 and could become law in August. Germany's
shift to green energy and away from nuclear power and fossil
fuels is one of Merkel's flagship policies but the cost of
ballooning subsidies is threatening to undermine it.
The reform is aimed at scaling back incentives. The
Commission - the EU executive - has said German industrial
discounts on green surcharges, worth 5.1 billion euros in 2014,
might be justified to keep energy-intensive firms in Europe, but
it had concerns.
(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Eric Walsh)